Security Goes Green: a contribution to Blog Action Day (Climate Change)


Join the debate on global climate change!

Join the debate on global climate change!

By Brian Sims, Editor, Security Management Today (SMT) Online

So many contemporary terminologies have sprung up around climate change and the so-called ‘green agenda’ of late – ‘carbon footprint’, ‘renewable energy’, ‘pollution-free’ among them, and all of them a definite step in the right direction. How do they fit within the security space? Brian Sims offers an impassioned opinion.

Until recently, few organisations in the security sector had grasped the nettle and adjusted their working practices to accommodate such ethical philosophies. Why not, you may ask, when everyone else seems to be doing so?

The prime reason is centred on cost. There’s still an all-pervasive view that ‘going green’ means big bucks and much upheaval. Others, though, feel the security sector has a relatively clean carbon footprint in any case and doesn’t really need to do too much.

Arguably, both of these theories are somewhat out of step with reality.

Fears surrounding climate change

There’s a certain degree of fear surrounding climate change, and an equally widespread reality check sinking in that existing natural resources aren’t limitless. Forward-thinking clients using security suppliers’ services are stipulating mandatory minimum requirements in respect of ecological preservation. BS EN ISO 14001, for instance, is now a prerequisite on many tender documents.

It’s also the case that certain organisations benefit from access to a range of external funding streams for so-called ‘green improvements’. Due to a rationing of these schemes, availability is usually on a ‘first past the post’ basis. If truth be told, that isn’t quite the answer.

One enlightened guarding company – Ilford-based AA Security – recently installed photovoltaic panels on the roof of its head office. The total cost was in the region of £12,000. By securing a 50% grant from the Energy Savings Trust and liaising with the local Council’s Environmental Department (who helped convince the parallel Planning Department to waive any costs for permissions) the company was able to proceed.

End result? This project will now provide 85% of AA Security’s annual general electricity consumption, at the same time preserving the environment. Brilliant stuff!

The collective moral conscience

There’s a firmly held belief that security company directors have a duty to reduce the environmental impact made by their organisation as part of a collective moral conscience. It could be argued that this ethical approach is highly desirable, but not a prescriptive requirement.

That may be true but, as Bob Dylan once sang, the times they are-a-changin’. Little by little, we have seen the trickle of significant developments in environmental legislation. Several Borough Councils are issuing penalty notices to residents and businesses deemed not to have recycled their waste in the appropriate manner. Fly-tipping fines are on the up.

Is it a case of taxation by stealth? Maybe. Either way, in my view it would be better if more schemes like this were operational in the security business sector. For instance, if the Government calculated a discount system for business rates against an organisation’s carbon footprint that would encourage enhanced ‘green’ practices. In the security sector, the Regulator – the Security Industry Authority – could look towards placing a stronger emphasis on environmental issues as part of the Approved Contractor Scheme assessment.

The stark reality of the situation is that all security professionals and their client base must play their part in the ecosphere’s preservation.

Environmental legislation and systems

In terms of systems development, over the past few years a number of European environmental directives and regulations have been – or are being – enacted in the UK which will impact/are already impacting on the security sector. The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive, the Equipment using Product (EuP) Directive, the Battery Directive (which came into force in September) and the Restriction, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemical Substances (REACH) Regulations are now very much in vogue.

In 2006, the Government passed into law the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act, swiftly followed a year later by a White Paper on energy issues. This was published to tackle the issue of clean, secure and affordable energy and that of reducing carbon emissions – otherwise known as the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC).

A number of elements concerning the CRC will affect the security industry and its clients. In 2010, for example, those who use lots of electricity will have to register and surrender carbon allowances to cover emissions. Under the CRC, clients may also request the carbon footprint of a given security product, which not only involves the amount of carbon it took to produce the system but also the level of carbon produced by the product when in normal use.

If they’re smart, manufacturers will be reviewing this area now as they move to add the relevant markings to their wares.

What we have before us is a marvellous opportunity for the security systems sector to lead others by ensuring that all of its products fully conform to the new legislation, and that solutions providers continually advise clients on the best energy saving measures possible.

In short, the security sector’s practitioners must act with responsibility.

Sustainable approaches to procurement

That said, although sticking a ‘socially responsible’ tag on most security products and services would likely send sales sky-rocketing given the recent rise of the ‘eco-consumer’, many businesses – both suppliers and clients – have yet to be convinced about sustainable approaches to procurement.

The business benefits to be realised include positive impacts on costs, risks to the business, options and preferences. Costs, for example, are reduced by factors ranging from enhanced compliance with Government regulation, lower consumption of energy and other resources through to increased returns generated from capital investments.

Risks are going to be lowered by a strengthened brand, an enhanced reputation, improved community relationships and/or reduced grounds for litigation. The risk of supply discontinuity can also be lowered by applying environmental performance metrics and targets into the supplier performance assessment process or during the contract renewal process, as these help to mitigate the risk of suppliers’ non-compliance.

It’s a known fact that purchased products and services can account for more than 60% of an average company’s costs. When your supply chain’s environmental and social footprint equals or exceeds that of your own company’s, the business’ resulting exposure to supplier activities becomes enormous – as does its vulnerability to adverse environmental and social impacts caused by any suppliers.

In essence, companies have three strategic choices open to them in relation to sustainable procurement.

First, they can adopt a reactive strategy, only moving towards a more sustainable direction when forced to do so by regulation and/or loss of business. Companies that adopt this strategy will maintain a high risk of losing competitive advantage, incurring fines and other penalties and losing either customers or staff (or both).

An alternative strategy is to keep pace with regulation. Such a decision would allow revenue protection, but on the flip side of the coin fails to encourage any new revenue generation.

The third road it’s possible to tread is a strategy of anticipation, through systematic evaluation of the company’s procurement options followed by the implementation of measures designed to maximise the business benefits rendered through procurement.

How big is the sustainability gap?

It’s often the case that senior executives don’t realise how big the sustainability gap really is in their own supply chain until it’s too late. The result is that their business suffers from too much public exposure.

Irrespective of any changes decided and planned, challenges can arise due to internal cultural or organisational barriers to adopting a full life-cycle cost perspective so that the external costs of procurement (disposal costs, carbon dioxide implications and the like) are properly internalised.

In the security sector as in any other business sector, there are effective steps that can be taken towards more sustainable procurement. Put simply, a given organisation needs to identify:

• Stakeholder expectations – among clients, customers, suppliers and regulators

• the level of ambition within the company for this way of doing business

• any barriers that prevent the company from adopting a sustainable procurement strategy

• how the organisation measures up against others that are either leading or lagging behind in the field of sustainable procurement

Proactive companies know that if they have significant procurement spend, they can push the market towards the development of a more sustainable offering. Thus the development of new products and services is pursued in tight collaboration with new or existing suppliers.

While Tory and Liberal Democrat leaders and green activists argue that the Government’s desire for a 60% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 doesn’t go far enough it’s a starting point. Interim targets may have been helpful, but they’re not in place. That’s no excuse for the security sector not setting its own goals.

Should security be affected by climate change?

Surely any change to existing processes and procedures will risk the integrity of secure systems? Is it actually possible to be both green and secure at the same time? If so, there would have to be a changeover period. Errors and chinks in the armour could show themselves.

Yes, the security sector should be affected. Yes, it will be (and is being) affected and, in my opinion, we risk our integrity by adopting any kind of silo mentality, and suggesting that we’re beyond looking at green issues.

Today’s discerning client craves greener security suppliers underpinned by a sound Corporate Social Responsibility strategy much like their own. If that forces security providers to make changes then so be it, and so much for the better. Change can be an elixir. We should embrace it whenever and wherever possible.

More efficient use of paper, electricity and fuel, for example, will lead to lower expenditure. This needs to be weighed against the few elements that will be more expensive due to resource availability and increased R&D costs, but careful balancing should see an overall saving (certainly if there’s a top down strategy in place).

What are the core elements of the ‘green mix’?

First, security practitioners must consider the different elements of the business.

For the sake of simplicity, we can split the business into administration and operations. The former category is largely the same for all and includes everything from accounts through to sales, marketing and management.

In terms of operations, each security solutions provider harbours its own skills and specialities (including guarding, CCTV monitoring and IT management).

The administrative elements of security businesses are easy to change as so many other companies in related and disparate industries have been there before and readily shown this to be the case.

Without even touching the operational elements of the business, security leaders can start to make a huge difference by ensuring they recycle everything: paper, plastic, ink toner and, in particular, packaging. These days, almost anything can be recycled through some scheme or another. If a supplier constantly sends items packaged in un-recyclable materials, the threat of boycotting them makes for a swift about-turn.

There are also many elements of operational equipment that can be broken down into their component parts and recycled once they’ve served their purpose. However, why put something beyond use that others may benefit from? Computers, for example, can be passed on to local schools (once all secure data has been wiped from them, of course).

Security companies ought to reduce their use of stationary. There’s been much chatter about shifting towards the paperless office. Invoice clients online, write more e-mails and fewer letters. Ask the bank for online statements. Not difficult, is it?

Transport and the operational side

In terms of transport and travel, one of the biggest green policies instigated by guarding companies has been the change from petrol/diesel vehicles to LPG.

Work is now being won by contractors less on the basis of their demonstrated ability to perform as a security firm and more to do with how they fit in to the client’s green agenda.

On the operational side, companies can make sure CCTV systems, barrier controls and alarm systems employ the latest, low energy technology. Staff can be instructed to switch off monitors and computers when they’re not in use. It’s a little known fact that the standby mode on most appliances uses 90% power.

All of these measures save as much in money as they do on carbon emissions. Now that cannot be bad, can it?

If you would like to read similar posts penned by some of my colleagues at United Business Media on the subject of climate change, please feel free to click on any of the links below:

Anthony Hildebrand:

John Welsh:

Ron Alalouff:

Grahame Morrison:


Filed under Blogroll

6 responses to “Security Goes Green: a contribution to Blog Action Day (Climate Change)

  1. Pingback: Guest post: how cult YouTube directors encourage a young demographic to support climate change « John Welsh’s These Digital Times

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  6. Thought the part about the “Green Mix” was pretty interesting, security firms could do a tremendous amount of good just by recycling a little!

    Webmaster- <a href=""Paperless Office

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